City Council celebrates Fiesta 2021 start, approves street closures

Jackie Wang

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Draped in bright blue sashes ready for Fiesta medals, City Council members celebrated the impending start of Fiesta 2021 at their Thursday meeting.

“Without exaggeration, I think this may be the most important Fiesta of my children’s lifetime after this really horrible, no-good year that was 2020,” Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said.

Last year, the coronavirus pandemic triggered the postponement of Fiesta from April to November. The event was eventually canceled entirely when it became apparent that the pandemic would not quickly abate. That cancellation was only the second in San Antonio’s history, Fiesta San Antonio Commission President Walter Serna noted on Thursday.

In February, city officials announced this year’s Fiesta would happen in June, a move that seemed risky at the time because distribution of COVID-19 vaccines was in the early stages. Now, with almost 44% of Bexar County residents fully vaccinated and local health indicators showing COVID-19 risk is low, Fiesta is set to kick off on June 17 and continue through June 27.

“When we picked June [for Fiesta 2021], we said we’d only do it if it was safe,” Serna said. “For those people that are out there listening, please get vaccinated – that’s the safest way to move forward.

“We’re excited. We’re ready to Fiesta. This city needs it. … I encourage everyone to go out and buy a gordita or drink a beer at NIOSA [A Night in Old San Antonio]. Go spend some money because it all goes to a good cause.”

Serna and Fiesta Commission Executive Director Steve Rosenauer presented Mayor Ron Nirenberg with a bright blue vest embroidered with his name and the Fiesta logo; his colleagues on the dais laughed as he put it on.

“Mayor, I got to tell you that I received a text message saying that you’re ready for the next quince because you look like a chambelan for a quince,” Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) quipped, sparking a roar throughout the chambers.

Council members reminisced about their own Fiesta memories, with Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) reminding everyone that he had once been a “beer booth babe” at a past Fiesta event. They all took photos with Miss Fiesta San Antonio Calista Burns and Fiesta organizers, praising them for their dedication to making the 2021 celebration happen.

“It’s just so exciting to get back to a little bit of normalcy,” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said. “Just seeing everybody’s faces, it’s such a thrill. So thank you guys for hanging in there. We have our lovely Miss Fiesta … Can I wear the crown?”

Getting down to the business of Fiesta, City Council approved on Thursday amendments to agreements with the Fiesta de los Reyes event and the Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA) event at La Villita. Because those two events are held at City-owned facilities, there is always a revenue-sharing agreement in place. However, the portion that the City takes will be smaller than typical years in order to help the nonprofits after a missed year of Fiesta revenue, said Jon Gary Herrera, regent of the Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation board. The Rey Feo organization runs Fiesta de los Reyes each year at Market Square.

“What the city has agreed to do this year to help us get back on our feet is waive their 75 cent requirement on each beverage share,” Herrera said. “They’re telling us this year, ‘You keep the 75 cents to help get you back on your feet.’”

On top of keeping that revenue on alcoholic beverages, the Rey Feo organization also can keep the typical 25 cent fee for each non-alcoholic beverage. Herrera estimated without having to pay the City per beverage sold, Rey Feo would be able to raise about $30,000 to $40,000 more for scholarships.

“With this participation from the city, we hope we can get to $250,000 [total raised] for scholarships and to help nonprofits get back on their feet,” Herrera said.

Rey Feo will still have to pay 50% of its overall revenue from Fiesta de los Reyes to the City, specifically toward the Market Square Fund, but it no longer has a minimum amount it’s required to contribute to the City. The Conservation Society of San Antonio, which puts on NIOSA, also does not have a minimum City contribution and will have to pay just 19% toward the La Villita Historic Preservation Fund instead of the usual 25%.

City Council also approved temporary street closures to give room for those events. Among the streets closed during Fiesta will be San Saba Street between Dolorosa and West Commerce Street, allowing for Fiesta de los Reyes at Historic Market Square to happen. That stretch of San Saba will be closed from 10 p.m. on June 15 to 5 p.m. on June 28. Find the full list of street closures and times here.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg thanked San Antonians for keeping public health guidelines in mind and keeping the coronavirus positivity rate low enough to safely host Fiesta in June.

“We all thought … that San Antonio could continue to demonstrate what it has been doing time and again during challenging times, which is pull together, work together, get a job done, and ultimately go back to life and activities and fun,” Nirenberg said. “That’s exactly what the community has been doing. I’m very proud of our Metro Health leaders and staff and everyone in this community who has now put us on the brink of being able to put this pandemic behind us.”

To continue getting residents vaccinated, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will operate vaccination booths at various Fiesta events, Serna said.

Find the full schedule of Fiesta events here.


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